My Easter Tradition

Looking back, I can’t actually remember when this tradition first began. The earliest memory I have of it is trying to figure how it was even possible to make a cake look like a lamb like it did on the box. I may have been around eight or nine years old when I remember my mom bringing it home. She pulled out the cake tin, and I remember how excited I was to make such a fun looking cake. At that point in my life, I was unable to comprehend anything beyond a cake being simply round or rectangular. My mom and I had always baked together, so for me, or her little assistant as she would say, this was just one more baking project to help her take on. We had baked almost everything from cookies to brownies to Frankenstein Rice Krispy treats for Halloween together. None of those recipes excited me like this one did, though. It felt like a cake that a real baker would make. Little did I know that years later, we would continue to make a cake named Lamby every year for Easter and that it would represent so much more than just a holiday dessert.

Each year we made the cake, I slowly gained more and more independence. At age eight, it was my dream, and perhaps the biggest honor, to be able to pour the batter into the cake tin, watching it slowly drizzle out of the bowl and into the lamb-shaped tin. If I was lucky, I got to mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) hoping that maybe that one day, I wouldn’t spill the mixture all over the counter. Year by year, I gained more experience and more capabilities. First I finally got to pour the cake batter into the tin (some years were more successful than others). Then, I eventually got to decorate the cake all by myself, starting out with just a can of buttercream frosting and a regular knife. That slowly transitioned into me learning how to using a frosting bag, and having a good understanding how to make it look somewhat decent. I discovered that using a certain tip would allow me to create the fluffy wool coat, and using a toothpick to make the facial features was more precise than using a fork. At one point, probably around age 12, the roles had reversed – I was the one who made the cake, and my mother was my assistant. This led to the most important Easter yet: the year I got to make the cake completely by myself. Gone were the days of being asked if I helped make the cake this year (which I always said yes to, and wondered how that could even be a question). Now, I was the one who made the cake. I wasn’t just my mom’s assistant, who may be helped frost the cake, or maybe even took it out of the oven. This was the year it became my cake.

At dinner, as everyone finished up their meals, I helped my mom clear all the dishes, emptying the table for what I was certain was the main dish. There was the slight talk of dessert, but I mostly heard small talk about things like the weather or political talk. Once it was finally time to bring the cake out, I became jittery, wondering what type of response it would get this year. Would people see the difference between my mom’s version and mine? Would people even care that I made it myself? As she did in past years, my mom brought it out on its tray since I wasn't yet strong enough to do so. I felt a sense of relief when the family stopped their conversations to take notice of Lamby. When they asked, “did you help your mom make Lamby this year?” I was able to tell them that I had done it all by myself.

Unfortunately, that sense of pride wasn’t always there. Lamby wasn’t necessarily a popular hit most years. The cake takes me about four hours to make, and every year I have to deal with the fact that almost no one eats the cake, with the exception of me, my mom, and possibly one other person. The first year I made it by myself, I waited near the dessert table, anxiously wanting to see just how big of a hit it would that year. But as time went on, I began to realize I was the only one who actually ate Lamby. When I asked the family if they wanted any cake, secretly hoping they had just forgotten to take a slice, they told me that it was too pretty to eat. How could they not eat it, knowing how long it took to make? This lead to the infamous question of why I spent so much time making this “stupid” cake if no one even eats it, and it ends up just sitting on the table possibly missing an ear or part of its butt.

I’ve asked myself this question, and I’ve been asked what seems like a never-ending amount of times by my family, but I soon realized that the answer, “I don't know,” was not sufficient. It didn’t have any power. It didn’t defend my reasoning behind counting down the days before it was time to make Lamby again. After some consideration, I realized that it was a tradition that I really valued. It was a cliché coming of age story told by a cake. It included the ups and the downs (yes, the year I spilled the batter all over the floor while putting the cake in the oven is still a touchy subject in my house). It portrayed my relationship with my mom, and it even portrayed my increasing capabilities.

So yes, to all who asked, I really do need to spend ALL that time making that Easter cake again this year.

 

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